“If she isn’t downstairs in five minutes,” Edward warned Mrs. Elston through gritted teeth, “I will go up to her room and drag her down myself!”
The old governess bristled. “As I told you, Miss Kate is feeling unwell—”
A sharp curse exploded from him, telling her exactly what he thought of Miss Kate’s sudden illness.
“Your Grace,” her brows shot up, offended, “with all due respect—”
He rolled his eyes, knowing that whatever she was about to say would lack all respect.
“—you have swept into our home without warning, upset both my little Katie and the entire household, and are now making demands as if you own the place.”
“I do own it,” he drawled.
“Brambly House is entailed,” she informed him pointedly. “It is owned solely by Miss Kate to be relinquished only to the gentleman she marries.” Her emphasis clearly implied that despite his title, she found him to be no gentleman. “If she wishes to forgo your company, you should have the decency to give her peace!”
She stood squarely in front of him and blocked the stairs like a bulldog guarding its dinner. While ordinarily he would have found that loyalty admirable, tonight he was ready to throttle her for it.
“Mrs. Elston,” he growled, tired from a long day of traveling and now hungry since dinner was an hour late, “if Miss Benton doesn’t come downstairs, I swear I’ll—”
“You will do what, your Grace?” a soft voice challenged from the landing.
He glanced up, and when he saw her, the rest of the threat vanished from his lips. Sweet Lucifer, she was a vision. Although a decade out of fashion, the ice-blue silk gown she wore was cut just carefully enough to tantalize without being improper, with its fitted bodice accentuating her slender waist and its neckline revealing a hint of firm breasts beneath. As she descended toward him, her upswept red hair shining like fire, the dress shimmered enticingly over her curves with each move.
She stopped two steps from the bottom, her eyes level with his and just the hint of a self-assured smile at her lips. The sweet scent of honeysuckle wafted down to him like a cloud, and his gut clenched with unbidden arousal.
The disheveled woman who greeted him earlier had transformed into a beautiful woman, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. She left him speechless.
“You’ll do what?” she pressed.
His lips twisted impishly at his now-empty threat. “Throw you over my knee and spank you.”
“Your Grace!” Mrs. Elston swung her gaze at him, appalled that he would even suggest such a thing.
Kate raised her head defiantly, her green eyes blazing. “I’d like to see you try.”
Good God. His cock twitched at the temptation.
“Miss Kate!” Mrs. Elston blurted out, aghast at her charge’s scandalous behavior.
Ignoring the old governess and fighting back an amused chuckle, Edward held out his hand. “Truce?”
“Until dessert at least?”
She placed her gloved hand into his and allowed him to help her down the last two steps and toward the dining room as she conceded, “Until dessert, your Grace.”
“Edward, please,” he corrected.
“Then you must call me Kate,” she insisted, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “All my guardians do.”
“You have a lot of guardians, do you?” he asked dryly.
“Oh, yes.” She gave a flippant wave of her hand, the mocking gesture indicating how ludicrous she found their situation and her desire to be free of it. “Lately, it seems there’s a new one dropping by every day.”
He paused in mid-step, then slid her an irritated sideways glance as she continued walking, slipping her hand away from his arm to proceed him into the room. As his gaze roamed down her backside, the curves beneath the gown and the soft sashay of her hips once again reminded him that this was no child in need of a guardian. This was a woman.
Worse, he thought grimly as the man now responsible for guarding her reputation, she was beautiful. The moment she debuted, every man would set his sights on her. And it wouldn’t be with the intention of marrying her.
Heaven help him, he was in serious trouble.
Seeking revenge on the man who is responsible for killing his older brother and his brother's wife, Edward Westover, the Duke of Swarthmore beggars Phillip Benton who so thoroughly ruined, even has to sign all rights to his daughter over to the duke. Edward never wanted to become duke, but his brother's untimely death while Edward was away fighting the war, changes all plans Edward has for his future in one fell swoop. Now he has a to "handle" little Kate Benton.
Since her father has basically abandoned her, Kate Benton has been living life rather precariously without help of anyone. Phillip Benton continually badgers his daughter to sign the entailed home her mother's family over to him to no avail. It's all Kate has left and she won't give it up. So along with her faithful,but aging staff and her own persistence, Kate perserveres through thick and thin, until the day her world is toppled over by an overbearing man who comes to call. The pretentious man has come to claim all she holds dear and Kate is not willing to cede.
Edward is shocked to find that "little" Kate Benton is not the child he imagined, but quite a grown woman. So grown that she inspires thoughts Edward should put out of his head directly. Kate is so angry that Edward is causing such upheaval in her world that the two immediately begin to butt heads. Coming to an accord, however is a mission both Kate and Edward are game for, especially when kissing is involved. Edward's ice begins to melt the more involved he becomes with Kate, but both of their pasts will cause serious issues when Kate disobeys Edward's order to have no communication with her scoundrel of a father. After a passionate if not tumultuous night with Kate, Edward punishes her for her disloyalty by sending her away, but even without her presence, he can think of nothing else but her.
DUKES ARE FOREVER is the first book in Anna Harrington's , The Secret Life Of Scoundrels series and the first book I have read by this author. I must say, that I enjoyed this tale immensely and look forward to more from Ms. Harrington. Kate and Edward are wonderful and intriguing characters who are a pleasure to read. Their head butting is a necessary evil to their budding relationship and Edward's ignorance of the fact that Kate is still an innocent in the entire mess before them is telling. Watching the downfall and the resolution is a delight and makes the HEA even brighter. I do highly recommend DUKES ARE FOREVER.